City may reject Sphar bids

City officials will decide next month whether or not to reject both bids for the Sphar Building project.

The City of Winchester led the project to rebuild and repurpose the 28,000 square-foot former seed warehouse in downtown, but is looking at other options after bids were submitted at more than $1 million above the avaialble funds.

Tuesday, the Winchester Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to have the city attorney prepare an order to reject the bids prepared for the Dec. 4 meeting.

During the commission’s regular meeting Tuesday, Mayor Ed Burtner said he supported walking away from the project.

With that option, the city would be responsible for repaying most of the design costs, demolishing the building and repairing the site.

The project’s architects also offered two other options: securing additional funding or shoring up the building, but that would require returning some of the grant funds.

Burtner said the city has about $1.73 million available from a variety of sources, including federal and state funds. Voting to accept a bid, he said, would be “unwise.”

“It’s a complicated project,” Burtner said. “To take the next step will be a process.”

“Maybe someone has $1.5 million to give to the project,” Commissioner Rick Beach said. “At the end of the day, it may be (walking away) we choose.”

Some, though, are asking the city to look for other options.

“I feel these three options are limited,” downtown property owner Wendy McAllister said. “I think it would be a mistake to say we only have these three options and tear it down.”

“When you’re looking at this, there’s always that gut check opportunity,” former mayor Dodd Dixon said. “Maybe there’s a fourth option. You’ve got a tough decision on this one. That building’s rough. Anything can be saved.

“I know that you’ll do the right thing and I don’t know what the right thing is. There’s not a good option you have on this.”

Burtner said previously he was not sure if the building would survive this winter. Twice during the previous winter, portions of the Sphar roof collapsed and caused more damage.

The city purchased the building in 2014 for $100,000, which was part of the Greater Clark Foundation’s $350,000 pledge for the project.

In other action Tuesday, the commissioners:

— approved a request from the Winchester Police Department to purchase 19 new laptop computers for officer vehicles with $11,000 in forfeiture funds.

— appointed Justus Daniel to the Housing Authority of Winchester for a four-year term.

— reappointed Flora Shelby, Vaughn E. Jones, Beverly Ackerman, Sherry Hampton, Ronda Simmons, Teresa Hopewell and Cicely Dore to two-year terms on the municipal cemetery board.

— reappointed Bobby Shook and Chris Thornsbury to three-year terms on the Winchester Historic Preservation Commission.

— reappointed Ty Clarke to a four-year term on the Winchester Tree board.

— reappointed Roy Hudson, David Lawrence and Todd Blanton to one-year terms on the Winchester Licensing Board.

— appointed Paula Thomas to a four-year term on the Clark County-Winchester Heritage Commission.

— awarded a bid to Houston Contracting to demolish a structure at 5 Sixth St.

— declared a 1986 Chevrolet aerial truck surplus property and transferred it to Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation.

— awarded a bid to Haggard Construction to demolish a structure at 124 Holly Ave.

— appointed Alyshia Powell Martin, Joshua Wood and Jordan Smith to three-year terms on the Winchester Board of Ethics.

— hired Sean McCarthy, Cooper Wilson, Peter Westhoff and Laura McKune as patient transfer specialists at Winchester Fire-EMS.

— accepted the retirement of Winchester Police Sgt. Joseph Riley.

— approved the promotion of Caleb Goodrich to sergeant at Winchester Police Department.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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